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Supermodel Susan Miner on Modeling, Inner Beauty, and Page Parkes Role Model Camp

Susan Miner has one of those dream-come-true modeling stories; Polly Mellen singled her out at a cattle call and put her on the cover of Vogue. Numerous stunning covers followed, but Susan discovered that beauty, money, and success do not necessarily equal happiness. Read on to find out where Susan’s journey to find a better life formula has led her—and can lead you.

Susan Miner Vogue Cover   Susan Miner Mirabella

How did you get started modeling?

I went to a small modeling school when I was 14. I had to convince my mother to let me go. I did some small jobs, passing out perfume and mannequin modeling. It was 1983/84 and I made $25 an hour, so it was wonderful! Then I went to a casting for a runway show for the store that is now Casual Corner. Even though I felt like I wasn’t pulled together like the other models, I got the job. I really shined in the show, and they offered me a contract. For two years, I was their exclusive model. Then an agent in Boston picked me up. (I’m from Hampden, Mass.) After I graduated from high school, I got an apartment in Boston. I worked one or two days a week—I was living the life! Two months later, an agency in New York picked me up and I moved there. I was 17. I did really well in New York, at least as well as someone can do without a book; I had Polaroids pretty much! My agent sent me to Australia. I went to a casting right off the plane and worked non-stop.

How long did it take to “make it”?

It happened right from the beginning, starting with small bookings and then leading up to bigger ones. If it had happened any faster, it probably would have been a disaster. There was a three-month period in Paris when all I was doing was wearing out my shoes. Then ten months later, they were flying me back on the Concorde. I went to Milan for almost a year when I was 18 or 19. My first day there, I booked Italian Vogue.

Did you have any of the bad experiences models report from “Viet-Milan”?

I made so much money, they weren’t going to mess with me. My boyfriend, a photographer who was eight years older, went with me. He kept me out of trouble. I didn’t really hear about the stuff that was going on until now.

What was your big break (not that Italian Vogue isn’t big enough!)?

I moved back to New York—I was 19 or 20— and went to a mass casting for Vogue. I had on my boyfriend’s pants (I owned two pairs of pants) and no makeup. When I walked in, Polly Mellen stood up and said, “Susan Miner, where have you been?” Several months later I was on the cover and in the magazine regularly from then on.

Did you like modeling?

I enjoyed modeling, yes, but I wasn’t always happy.  I had my own demons, as most young women do. All my struggles were within myself, and they were contradictory to modeling. I was getting paid a lot of money for how I looked. At the same time, I directed a lot of shame and sadness at myself.

Did being a model reinforce these negative feelings or bolster your confidence?

In one sense, modeling bolstered my confidence because I was very independent. It gave me a lot of choices and people were enamored with the profession. But it played into my insecurities too. A client would feed you a big lunch and then hand you an outfit the size of a toothpick. I never had an eating disorder, but I brushed upon an eating disorder in my mind.  What I struggled with was knowing what to eat, what was best for me. Once I figured out what I needed to eat, it wasn’t hard. The whole fat-free trend was a nightmare.  I was always hungry. When I started eating right and exercising—I love exercising—it wasn’t hard. But if I had to be a size 2, I would have been sick. Even when I was 8 or 10 lbs heavier than my ideal as a model, I worked every day. When I was modeling, I knew very few girls with eating disorders. In fact, only one.

What was your ideal weight and how tall are you?

It was 128. I’m 5’9″ or just under that. I’m not 128 now and I’m happy. I’m 134 or 135.

Susan Miner for Nivea  Susan Miner Editorial

How many years did you model?

Fifteen, but ten full time.

What did you learn from your career?

I learned to value myself financially. I learned I have the ability to make a good living. I learned that the world in general values and judges appearances. I learned that it doesn’t matter where you are, what you have, or what you look like—it doesn’t make you happy. You can be young, beautiful, rich, and in a beautiful place like Paris and still not be happy.

Biggest perk of modeling?


What was your catalog day rate?

My minimum was $2,500. I made $3,500 sometimes, and a whole lot more for some clients.

Biggest drawback/pitfall?

If girls attach their self-worth to modeling, that’s a pitfall. The bottom line is a very small percent are going to make a really good living—even a decent living—at it. If girls think that modeling will make them lovable or fabulous, that’s a pitfall; or if modeling keeps them from paying attention to what they really want to do, where their gifts may lie.

Worst experience?

I can’t pick one example, but sometimes I would be so exhausted from traveling and being nervous and not sleeping before a job that I could barely put one foot in front of the other. I was delirious. Or modeling winter clothes in the summer on a tar roof—that was interesting—or standing in snow in swimwear.

Advice to young people interested in modeling?

I’m actually writing an entire E-book on this, so I could talk for a long time. I encourage girls to focus on their inner strengths, their confidence, loving themselves—all the things that will give them a more fulfilling and peaceful life overall.

I read on your site (susanminerbeauty.com) that at age 27, you went to college, got your B.A. in Psychology and M.A. in Community Counseling and became Professor Miner! Last year, at 42, you launched a new business, Beauty From the Inside Out. Tell us about that.

My business is designed to give women the experience of feeling their inner beauty: peace, comfort in their own skin, connection with their higher power. It’s very experiential. I’m not teaching anything new, or that you can’t learn in a book. It’s more giving people the experience of feeling peaceful and then giving them some tools they can carry out into their everyday life. I may start with energy movement, which relaxes the body and gets a person into their body and out of their minds, followed by heartfelt accomplishment exercises. I work with clients on Skype and do guided meditations. I have been doing this kind of work for ten years. I really began when I was 20, self studying, trying to feel better myself; I always say that’s why I became a therapist: I was a mess and wanted to feel better!

Susan MIner Now Susan Miner, full-length

Susan Miner now, making the 40s look amazing! (Photos by Danny Cardozo)

Tell me how you will be involved in Page Parkes Role Model Camp?

I’m doing what I call “A Roadmap to Peace.” When I was younger, I would have loved someone to give me a roadmap or have someone be my mentor. It’s a roadmap from empowerment to peace, with exercise to build trust, hope, forgiveness, understanding, love, joy, and peace.

How many girls will there be and what age group?

Twenty girls, ages 13 – 17. I’m very excited about it!

How did you get involved with the camp? Do you know Page?

Yes, she’s one of my clients. Originally, it started that I wanted to support her as she becomes more out there as a role model. She has been a role model for all these years but behind the scenes.

Where do you live?

Orlando. My husband, Anthony, an engineer, was transferred here with Pepsi. Now he’s working full-time with me in the business.

Do you have children?

A daughter, Charlee Rose, who will be five in September.

What would you say if she wanted to model?

[She ponders for a moment.] When she’s older? I would say yes. But now, no way, it would be a full-time job for me! [Read more about Kid Modeling.]

How has motherhood affected you?

Motherhood has made me more committed to being healthy both in mind and body.

What do you do as a mom to try to raise a confident, secure, happy daughter?

I try to be honest with her even at her age.  Mostly I focus on being confident, secure, and happy myself.

Anything to add?

I want to add that, particularly with my business, I’m very interested in collaborating a lot, especially with other models who want to share in a spiritual, nurturing way.

Contact Susan through her website, susanminerbeauty.com, or via email: susan@susanminerbeauty.com

More info on Page Parkes Role Model Camp

Stay tuned for a Q&A with photographer Danny Cardozo next week!